What does Cassidy Phillips, a second-year student at the IU Hamilton Lugar School, recommend to students attending the 8th annual America’s Role in the World conference (ARW8) for the first time? “Pack a quiet snack that you can bust out. Don’t be like us… don’t pack chips!”
Phillips says students shouldn’t be intimidated by the school’s annual ARW foreign policy conference, which convenes high-ranking diplomats, leading academics, journalists, regional experts, activists, and government leaders.
“At first I had a hard time getting people to answer my questions during the panels,” Phillips shared. “That was fine. I just got up and followed the speakers out and got my questions answered, which they were really receptive to.”
As a Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures major, Phillips says students should focus on developing good questions for panelists, and not be overly concerned with traditional ‘professional’ appearances.
“Last year I had a bright purple mohawk, I had tattoos visible, but the speakers … were not fazed by my appearance at all, which was so cool,” said Phillips. “I felt like I was being spoken to by high-caliber people like an adult. I think part of that was I had well formulated questions. There were very specific things I wanted to know about [panelists], about their field, about their experiences, and they recognized that.”
The ARW8 conference will be held March 2-3 at the Hamilton Lugar School, offering students the opportunity to connect with diplomats and experts on global issues and foreign policy. Students who attend in person can ask questions to be answered live by panelists on stage.
Fourth-year Hamilton Lugar School student Abby Potter says students should ‘do their homework’ on ARW panelists but shouldn’t worry about knowing everything.
“They know we’re students and they know we have questions,” said Potter. “As long as you show genuine interest. Don’t be afraid to go up to people and introduce yourself. Stick your hand out, shake their hand. They really are wanting to get to know you.”
“ARW is not some elite conference that students are on the outskirts of — we’re encouraged to be in the middle,” explains Potter who is double majoring in International Studies and Middle Eastern Languages & Cultures.
Several aspects of the ARW8 conference are of interest to Potter: the climate crisis, and media in Iran. Last year, she attended the United Nations COP27 climate talks in Egypt with the IU student delegation, where she studied climate change communication and spoke extensively with journalists covering the conference.
The ARW8 Iran in Transition panel is one of particular interest to Potter, because it will feature leading journalists and scholars on Iran.
“I’m excited to talk to them, especially about TikTok which has been a huge thing with the anti-regime protesters so I’m hoping to see if they have some perspective on that,” she says.
Michael Leverett participated in the ARW conference for the first time last year by introducing IU President Pamela Whitten and Former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William B. Taylor.
“I was nervous, but Taylor gave me confidence through a handshake and some positive words. His humility and kindness gave me confidence to deliver the introduction and I will not forget that,” says Leverett.
Leverett is a student in the Master of International Affairs program, a joint program between the Hamilton Lugar School and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
He says that panelists’ interest in students is one thing that makes the ARW conference unique.
“The dignitaries that come are really interested in the student experience,” says Leverett. “A lot of the informal conversations I have had were not me going up to different professionals, but in fact, the professionals were coming up to me and asking about my experience or asking about the things I was interested in. The interest that they have in students is something that I haven’t seen in a conference before.”
Leverett emphasizes that the networking opportunities are one of the strongest reasons for students to attend ARW.
“Being able to have informal conversations is something that is relaxing about the [ARW] environment,” he says. “Engaging with people across coffee tables, I have gained a lot of insight in where I need to be in this career field.”
Leverett describes ARW8 as a student led conference, which he hopes will encourage students to attend from all areas of study.
Abby Potter especially encourages first year students to attend ARW and wants them to know it’s not for juniors or seniors only.
“It’s super important for younger students to go to help home in on their research,” she explains. “We all have certain passions within international studies so I think networking with panelists and asking them questions can help you find your certain interests.”
“ARW is also a ‘check in’ moment,” she says. “When I went last year, I realized this is what I’m meant to do. This major is right for me.”
Cassidy Phillips says one of the most important things students can do at ARW is to make their voices heard. “This year climate change is a big part of the docket, and that affects everyone on this campus, even if it’s not your major. Ask the questions that you have. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to break something down further, and don’t be afraid to whip out Google – I did that a lot and no one batted an eye.”
The annual conference on America’s Role in the World® at Indiana University’s Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies addresses the major foreign policy challenges we face, with an eye toward a deeper understanding of how they affect and are affected by domestic developments. The non-partisan conference honors the people for whom the school is named, Rep. Lee H. Hamilton and Sen. Richard G. Lugar, gentle giants of U.S. foreign and their commitment to principled U.S. global engagement.